Nato will join the US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday hours before a summit with the US president, Donald Trump.
UPDATE — UTC TIME 16-45
“This will send a strong political message of Nato’s commitment to the fight against terrorism,” Stoltenberg said.
He said this would not involve Nato taking on a combat role in the fight against IS and other groups in Syria and Iraq.
Trump came to Brussels on his first foreign trip as president to push Nato allies to take on a more active role, having dubbed the Cold War-era alliance, “obsolete” for failing to focus on the threat of terrorism.
Arriving in the city Wednesday, Trump said Monday’s deadly bomb attack in Manchester only showed how dangerous the threat was and that the fight against terror had to be won.
All 28 allies have individually joined the anti-IS coalition of more than 60 countries, but Nato as an institution has not followed suit until now despite intense pressure from Washington.
Diplomatic sources say some member states such as France, Germany and Italy had opposed such a move for fear the alliance would be dragged into a ground war and risk relations with Arab powers.
France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to play a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.
The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda.
“NATO as an institution will join the coalition,” said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. “The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States. France and Germany believe it is.”
Flying to the NATO meeting in Brussels with Trump, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday it would be an important step for the Organization to join the U.S.-led, 68-nation coalition.
“I think they’re going to support NATO joining and becoming a formal member,” he said, referring to “a couple of countries that are still thinking it over” but not giving details.
Trump has said he wants to focus on fighting Islamic terrorism and, in a brief encounter with the Belgian prime minister, referred to a suicide attack claimed by Islamic State that killed 22 people in Manchester on Monday.
“It’s a horrible situation…. unthinkable. But we will win,” Trump said. “We are fighting very hard, doing very well under our generals… We will win this fight.”